From Poems A Summer Evening's Meditation (1773)

"A Summer Evening's Meditation,"
by Anna Laetitia Barbauld.

One sun by day, by night ten thousand shine*

'Tis Passed! -- the sultry tyrant of the south
Has spent his short-lived rage. More grateful hours
Move silent on; the skies no more repel
The dazzledsight, but with mild maiden beams
Of tempered light invite the cherished eye
To wander o'er their sphere, where, hung aloft,
Dian's bright crescent, like a silver bow
New strung in heaven, lifts high its beamy horns
Impatient for the night, and seems to push
Her brother down the sky. Fair Venus shines
Even in the eye of day -- with sweeteish beam
Propitious shines, ans shkes a trembling flood
Of softened radience from her dewey locks.
The shadows spread apace, while meekened Eve,
Her cheek yet warm with blushes, slow retires
Through the Hessperien gardens of the west,
And shuts the gates of day.
"Tis now the hour
When Contemplation from her sunless haunts
(The cool damp grotto or the lonely depth
Of unpeirced woods, where, wrapped in silent shade,
She mused away the gaudy hours of noon
And fed on thougts unripened by the sun)
Moves forward, and with radient finger points
To yon blue concave swelled by breath divine
Where, one by one, the living eyes of heaven
Awake, quick kindling o'er the face of ether
One boundless blaze -- tenthousand trembling fires
And dancing lustres -- where th' unsteady eye,
Restless and dazzled, wanders unconfined
O'er all this field of glories: spacious field,
And worthy of the Master! -- He whose hand
With hieroglyphics older than the Nile
Inscribed the mystic tablet hung on high
To public gaze, and said, 'Adore, oh man,
The finger of thy God!' From wht pure wells
Of milky light, what soft o'erflowing urn
Are all these lamps so filled -- these friendly lamps
For ever streaming o'er the azure deep
To point our path and light us to our home?
How soft they slide along their lucid spheres,
And, silent as the foot of time, fulfil
Their destined courses! Nature's self is hushed
And, but a scattered leaf which rustles through
The thick-wove foliage, not a sound is heard
To break the midnight air -- though the raised ear,
Intensely listening drinks in every breath.
How deep the silence, yet how loud the praise!
But are they silent all? or is there not
A tongue in every star that alks to man
And woos him to be wise -- nr woos in vain?
This dead of midnight is the noon of thought,
And wisdom mounts her zenith with the stars.
At this still hour the self-collected soul
Turns inward, and beholds a stranger there
Of high descent, and more than moral rank:
An embryo God, a spark of fire devine
Whic must burn on for ages, when the sun
(Fair transitory creature of a day!)
Has closed his golden eye and, wrapped in shades
Forgets his wonted journey through the east.
Ye citadels of lights and seats of gods!
Perhaps ny future home from whence the soul,
Revovling periods past, may oft look back
With recollected tenderness on all
The various busy seens she left below,
Its deep-laid projects and its strange events,
As on some fond and doting tale that soothed
Her infant hours. Oh be it lawful now
To tread the hallowed circle of your courts,
And with mute wonder and delighted awe
Approach your burning confines!
Seized in thought,
On fancy's wild and roving wing I sail,
From the green boarders of the peopled earth
And th palemoon her dutious fair attendant;
From soliatry Mars; from the vast orb
Of Jupiter, whose huge gigantic bulk
Dances in either like the lightest leaf;
To the dim verge, the suburbs of the system
Where cheerless Saturn midst her wat'ry moons,
Girt with a lucid zone, majestic sits
In gloomy grandeur, like an exiled queen
Amongst her weeping handmaids. Fearless thence
I launch into the trackless deeps of space
Wher buring round, ten thousand suns appear
Of elder beam, which ask no leave to shine
Of our terrestial star, nor borrow any light
From the proud regent off our scanty day --
Sons of the morning, first born of creation,
And only less than Him who marks their track
And guides their fiery wheels. Here I must stop,
Or is heir aught beyond? What hand unseen
Imels me onward through the glowing orbs
O habitable nature far remote,
To the dread confines of eternal night,
To solitudes to vast unpeopled space,
The deserts of creation, wide and wild,
Where embyo systems and unkindled suns
Sleep in the womb of chaos?
Fancy droops,
Anf thought astonished stops her bold career;
But oh, thou mighty mind, whose powerful word
Said, 'Thus let all things be', and thus they were --
Where shall I seek thy presence? How unblamed
Invoke thy dread perfection?
Have the broad eyelids of the morn beheld thee,
Or does the beamy shoulder of Orion
Support thy throne? Oh look with pity down
On erring, guilty man -- not in thy names
Of terror clad; not with those thunders armed
That conscious Sinai felt, when fear appalled
Tha scattered tribes: Thou hast a gentler voice
That whispers comfort to the swelling heart
Abashed, yet longing to behold her maker.
But now my soul, unused to stretch her powers
In flight so daring, drops her weary wing
And seeks again th eknown accustomed spot
Dressed up with sun and shade, and lawns and streams,
A mansion fair and spacious for its guest,
And full replete with wonders. Let me here,
Content and grateful, wait th' appointed time
And ripen for the skies: the hour will come
When all these splendours bursting on my sight
Shall stand unveiled, and to my ravished sense
Unlock the glories of the world unknown.
*Young, Night Thoughts, ix. 748.
HTML markup by Eric Weiner, for EN641, May 6, 1996.

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